Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Craig to Prince Rupert

We decided to bypass Ketchikan on our way out of Alaska this year.  From Craig headed SE.  We hit three new (to us, anyway) anchorages, Shelikof Island Cove, Mabel Bay and Hunter Bay in successive nights then headed for Hydaburg.

Hydaburg is primarily populated by members of the Haida native Alaskan clans.  Cruising friends of ours had recommended Hydaburg to us for its native culture and friendly community.  The last week of July they have Haida Culture Camp intended to spread and preserve Haida culture in the community.  It is open to the public and we attended classes one day and then the closing feast event.  The foundation for a new long house to be used in Haida cultural events was dedicated while we were there.  We were terrifically impressed by the community spirit and the efforts they are going through to preserve their culture.

After Hydaburg, we sneaked around Cape Chacon and spent the night in Gardner Bay.  It is to far (at least at our leisurely speeds) to make it to Prince Rupert in one day from the south tip of Prince of Wales Island. Instead, we crossed Clarence Strait, scooted around the north side of Duke Island and made our way to the mainland side of Revillagigedo Channel.  Our last night in Alaska for 2016 was in Foggy Bay, the same anchorage we used for our first night this year. 

An early start the next morning, the first day of August, got us into Prince Rupert at the Prince Rupert Rowing & Yacht Club (PRRYC) by 1 PM (and that is with losing an hour going from AKDT to PDT).  We’ll spend a couple of nights in Prince Rupert before continuing the slow journey south.  Our rough schedule has us rounding Cape Caution, the exposed section that separates the northern portion of the BC Inside Passage from the southern portion, towards the end of August.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Hoonah to Craig

Our stay is Hoonah was pleasant.  The store grocery and hardware store are well stocked and a new craft brewery with a tasting room has opened up.  We had an interesting conversation with the master carver for the panels in and on the Huna Tribal Long House being built in Glacier Bay National Park at Bartlett Cove.  The exterior panel (left photo) is complete and installed on the long house but the interior panel (right photo) was in the final stages of completion at the carving shop in Hoonah before being shipped off for the dedication on August 25.

2016-07-151x           2016-07-160x

2016-07-168xAfter two nights on the dock, we untied and headed east in Icy Strait then headed south down Chatham Strait.  The weather was lovely and along the way we stopped in Iyoukeen Cove and fished for halibut.  After about 2 hours effort, Marcia had 2 halibut aboard.  She cleaned them after we arrived in our anchorage for the night, Pavlof Harbor.

After the previous lovely day we were expecting more of the same but Chatham Strait fooled us by 15-20 knot head winds and a steep 3’ choppy head seas.  Both cats lost their breakfast in the subsequent pounding.  We pulled into Takatz Bay and found our “cousin” ship (same builder and hull design but different upper layout), Luck Dragon, already anchored.  We had last seen Ed and Carlene in Sitka nearly a month earlier.

2016-07-175xNext day, we continued down Chatham Strait in calm conditions to Gut Bay which we had visited previously this season.  There was a bit of wind across the bay so we anchored in a protected cove on the bay’s south side that is outside a small cove with a shallow entrance requiring it to be timed.  We dropped the kayaks and paddled into the inner cove and found a vessel, Navigator, anchored their owned by friends of the our neighbors in the marina at which our boat stays for the winter.  Lynn & Neal cruise with 3 Maine Coon cats so we, of course, have an affinity with them.

2016-07-189xOur original hope was to continue around Cape Decision at the south end of Kuiu Island but between the weather forecast and our desire to minimize stress on the cats, we decided to go around the north end of Kuiu Island and down Rocky Pass (Keku Strait).  Along the route, we stopped and fished Kingsmill Point where Marcia found two coho salmon attracted to her fishing lure.  Marcia cleaned her catch in Honey Dew Cove on the north end of Kuiu Island.

2016-07-197xTransiting Rocky Pass is not difficult but does require attention to timing (high slack water at the Devil’s Elbow station) and to navigation.  There are about 40 navigation aids but the number of hazards far exceeds that.  You tend to rely on your electronic navigation to show where you are and do your best to relate what you see outside with what the screen says.  We ended up following a commercial troller and being followed by another pleasure craft through the tricky part.

Continuing the inside water route to Craig, we went through El Capitan Passage, spending the night in Kaguk Cove before heading into Craig. 

While in Craig, we bumped into some cruisers from the Bremerton Yacht Club that we had also met in 2014 while in Icy Strait.  They had been doing some serious fishing in Craig so Marcia pumped them for local knowledge.

2016-07-200xAfter two nights in Craig we headed out to do some fishing.  There is lots of commercial fishing, both trollers and seiners so Marcia was hoping for something.  She did catch two pink salmon but both ultimately got away.  After one night out, we decided to sit out some upcoming windy & rainy weather at the dock and so headed back into Craig.

From here, our plan is to visit Hyderburg for a few days during their annual native cultural event.  Than we’ll continue around the south end of Prince of Wales Island and make our way across the border to Prince Rupert, BC.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Juneau to Hoonah via Glacier Bay

The IVF dock in downtown Juneau is about 12 miles by car from the docks where we normally stay at in Auke Bay.  By water, it is about 20 miles virtually circumnavigating Douglas Island, as the direct route via the Mendenhall Bar (no it is not a tavern, but the outflow from the Mendenhall Glacier), is only negoiable at high tide by shallow draft boats with local knowledge of the shifting channel.  We weren’t actually going to Auke Bay but we traveled pretty close to there as we headed to Swanson Harbor where we intended to tie up to the public dock. 

The water was dead calm as we made good time up Stephens Passage toward the junction with Lynn Canal at the north end of Admiralty Island.  Many of the whale watching 2016-07-003xboats loaded with cruise ship passengers leave from Auke Bay and we are regularly passed by them as they darted about looking for humpback or orca whales.  In our case, we had an orca whale pass close by on a course up channel.

Winds out of the north picked up as we approached Swanson and were blowing a steady 15 knots as we made our attempt to dock.  Nobody was on the dock and with the wind blowing us off the dock, we weren’t able to get in and stay on the dock long enough to tie up.  Since the anchoring grounds in Swanson were also exposed, we headed to Funter Bay where we found much calming conditions and had a pleasant night at anchor.

We had a short day to our next anchorage in Flynn Cove, so we waited until the wind laid down and the tide switched in our favor.  Vessel entry into Glacier Bay National Park is limited and the NPS looks dimly on people coming before their permit starts.  Flynn Cove is one of the closer anchorages to the park and we use it most years before we enter.

After we entered the park, we headed towards Bartlett Cove where the visitor center and lodge are located.  We needed to complete an annual boater’s orientation before proceeding up the bay further.  At the dock where we tied up, another boater strongly recommended an anchorage very close to the glaciers at the northern end of the park.  It is not very sheltered but in calm conditions, which were forecast, it is safe.

2016-07-012xAfter the orientation, we headed to Shag Cove in Geike Inlet.  It is a deep anchorage and only accommodates one or two vessels but is lovely.  The weather was generally calm but low marine air greeted us the next morning.  It reminded me a bit of Misty Fjords National Monument near Ketchikan.

2016-07-021xDespite the early morning clouds the sun came out and we headed up Tarr Inlet near the north end of Glacier Bay where the Margerie and Grand Pacific glaciers are.  Mount Fairweather stood out prominently as cruised along.  We timed our arrival towards the end of the day after the cruise ships and tour boat had left.  The ice debris in the water was lighter than we had seen in our previous 5 trips so we had no problem making our way to the glacier face and then to our anchorage less than 2 miles away.

2016-07-048xThe anchorage was simply stunning and we enjoyed the evening on our fly bridge listening to the black-legged kittiwakes flying above us and the rumbles of the glaciers in the distance.  We watched the ebb and flow of ice chunks past our boat.  The next morning was calm but the clouds had thickened overnight.

It was on to another old standby, North Sandy Cove.  Some whales were feeding near the entrance but not so close that we couldn’t get by them without disturbing them.  Surprisingly, we were the only boat in the inner cove that night.

2016-07-125xThe next day we did the slow cruise by South Marble Island to see, hear and smell the Stellar Sea Lion colony on the rocks.  Of course, there were ample numbers of Tufted Puffins feeding in the waters.2016-07-118x  Lastly, we had a brilliant display of acrobatics by one humpback whale which would leap from the water three times in quick (for a whale anyway) succession, rest for a few 2016-07-096xminutes and then repeat the performance.  We watched it for more than 20 minutes before it resumed normal feeding and we moved on to our next anchorage in North Finger Bay.

The last two nights in Glacier Bay were spent in Bartlett Cove.  The afternoon of our arrival, we paddled our kayaks up the Beardslee Cutoff a short distance.  That route is the protected channel by which kayakers are able to move up bay.  The next day we did the Bartlett River hike followed by lunch and a quick load of laundry at the lodge.

2016-07-157xThe last anchorage before Hoonah was back in Flynn Cove.  We tried some halibut fishing before going in but only a couple of small bottom fish nibbled.  After we dropped the anchor, Marcia set a “meat hook” down (i.e., a baited hook on a pole that you leave unattended, other than adjusting for tidal changes periodically).  As we were watching TV (15 minutes from the end of a Midsomer Murder), Marcia heard an odd noise, went out and investigated then reeled up a 36” halibut!  She spent the hour before bedtime fileting it.

Its now on to Hoonah and from there a slow trip down to Craig on Prince of Wales Island.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Sitka to Juneau - Part 2

The morning of Wednesday, June 22, we headed out from our anchorage at the head of Gut Bay. We stopped along the way and pulled the prawn pots we had dropped the evening before as we headed in. We were very satisfied with the prawns, both spot and striped, that we brought up and anticipated fresh prawns for dinner that night.

2016-06-060xOur destination for the night was another new to us anchorage, Rowan Bay on Kuiu Island on the east side of Chatham Strait. The weather was lovely and the seas in Chatham Strait were nearly flat as we crossed over to Rowan Bay. The bay was nice but the scenery wasn't nearly as dramatic as that in2016-06-063x Gut Bay. The hills were lower and softer as they were heavily timbered. We were a bit put off by a 2-story floating fishing lodge on the north shore of the bay. But it did not appear to be active as we saw no boats come and go or other sign of life. The worse, though, might have been the pesky horse flies.  Marcia made a pretty good dent in their population while she sat on the fly bridge.

The next day, Thursday, June 23, the weather forecast indicated that it would be the last of the good weather for a while. So rather than try another new anchorage on Kuiu Island, we crossed Frederick Sound to Chapin Bay on Admiralty Island, an anchorage we used last year.

2016-06-078xThe next morning, we traveled the relatively short distance along the south shore of Admiralty Island to Cannery Cove in Pybus Bay. Cannery Cove is a popular anchorage but the popularity is well deserved. It boasts beautiful scenery (at the head is a meadow often frequented by brown bears and beyond it, a stunning mountain-scape), and an ample anchoring area offering protection from most storms. When we pulled in, only one other boat was there. By nightfall, a total of 8 boats, including ourselves, were anchored in Cannery Cove.

We ended up spending 3 nights in Cannery Cove, using it as a base to service the prawn traps we dropped in the channels outside the cove and to try our hand at halibut fishing. The prawning was productive, the fishing was not. 2016-06-074xThe weather for the first two days was poor, with regular rain showers and winds in the 10-15 knot range. By our last day, the winds were dying and the low marine clouds hinting at sunshine once the sun began heating the atmosphere.

On the morning of Monday, June 27, we continued up Stephens Passage to Gambier Bay. Marcia tried halibut fishing along a channel leading into the bay but again, no luck. We dropped three exploratory prawn traps in Gambier Bay since we had never prawned there before. The next morning, the prawn traps were productive but the bottom was muddy and the prawns and traps required extra cleaning to get the mud off.

On Tuesday, June 28, for our final night out before heading into Juneau, we tied up at the public dock in Taku Harbor. The year before we had sat up a storm in Taku before heading into Juneau. The weather was much better this year, with lots of sun and temperatures in the mid-60's.

Based on suggestions from others, we are docking in a new location in Juneau this year than all our previous trips. The Intermediate Vessel Float (IVF) is on the waterfront in downtown Juneau, nestled between the cruise ship docks. It is a small dock, only 6 slips, and does allow reservations. The moorage fee is over twice that which is charged at other Port of Juneau facilities but we thought we'd splurge for a couple of nights and see what the "city life" is like in Juneau.

We'll be renting a car in Juneau in order to provision for the next leg of our summer cruise into Glacier Bay National Park. There is a Costco in Juneau so we'll also provision for the staples that will take us through until we get back to Puget Sound in September. Annie-cat continues to do well with her every other day subcutaneous infusions of lactated Ringer's solution and Marcia will be stocking up on supplies for that as well.

We are nearing the half-way point of our trip and have traveled 1,865 nautical miles in the 65 days we've been out. I expect that we'll get to 4,000 miles by the time we make it back to Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Sitka to Juneau - Part 1

Besides all of its other attractions, an additional plus to being in Sitka during June is the Sitka Music Festival. It is a month long classical chamber music event in which visiting musicians give symposia and concerts. While we were there we attended two outstanding evening events. In future years, we'll try to include more events in our schedule.

We were also able to catch up with other cruisers who own boats from the same builder as ours. At various times Luck Dragon (Edward and Carlene Forcier), Shearwater (David Cohn) and Seaducktress (Peter and Glenda Geerlofs) were in Sitka while we were there.

After three days in town, on Thursday, June 16, we left Sitka heading towards Juneau. Based on a suggestion from Peter Geerlofs (Seaducktress), we made a reservation in downtown Juneau at the Intermediate Vessel Float (IVF) for the nights of June 29 and 30. The most direct route to Juneau is 162 miles which we could comfortably cover in 3 days. Since we had 13 days, we intended to take a more circuitous route and take shorter hops.

The first night was back Kalinin Bay, with the thought of perhaps fishing outside its entrance. Based on recent experience, Marcia decided to forgo the opportunity.

For the second night, it was back to Douglass Bay but not before dropping prawn pots nearby. The next morning, we harvested a sufficient number of prawns for a meal or two.

From there, it was onto Rodman Bay, a new anchorage for us, where we again dropped prawn pots on the way in. Alas, when we brought them up the next morning, they had just a few tiny striped prawns which we threw back.

2016-06-035xOn Sunday, June 19, we anchored in Point Moses Cove, in Hanus Bay. We arrived early enough that we had time to drop the kayaks and paddle over to the trail head for the Lake Eva. The US Forest Service has a well-maintained trail from the beach landing to Lake Eva, a 3+ mile round trip. It was wonderful hike paralleling the stream draining Lake Eva. We saw no bears only some relatively fresh scat. Based on the number eagles in the trees along the drainage, we're confident that when the salmon return the bears and eagles will be eating2016-06-034x well. After the hike, we paddled into the lagoon that separates the fresh water Lake Eva drainage and the salt water Hanus Bay. Both the hike and paddle were wonderful (the sunny weather helped as well).

The next morning, we headed south into Chatham Strait heading towards either Ell Cove or Takatz Bay. The winds began to pick up to 20-25 knots and soon we were pounding into short-period steep-sided waves. We were fighting both wind and current so our pace was a glacial 5+ knots. The motion was all pitching and not rolling so it wasn't too uncomfortable for us but the cats thought otherwise and both threw up. Ultimately, we went to Ell Cove because it was about 5 miles closer which meant an hour less pounding, a unanimously approved decision.

2016-06-043xThe morning of Tuesday, June 21 was the opposite of the day before, winds were calm and the seas glassy. As we continued south along Chatham Strait, the low marine clouds dropped and became thick fog. Fortunately, between radar and AIS tracking, we felt comfortable traveling, although we remained alert for logs and debris in the water. Along the way, we passed going north the Nordhavn 46 Penguin owned by Doug and Cathlyn MacQuarrie who are members of our yacht club, Queen City.

Our destination for the night was Gut Bay on the east shore of Baranof Island. This was a new to us anchorage. We had heard it was a lovely setting but 2016-06-050xthe electronic charting either erratic or poor. The fog had lifted before we entered so we were able to safely enter and enjoy the stunning views of steep cliffs dropping into the narrow bay. It is a deep bay and anchorages are few. We approached the recommended anchorage at the head of the bay and to the right of a stream carefully, looking for any shoaling ahead. We dropped anchor about 125 yards from shore in 50 feet of water (zero tide). The winds were light overnight and we did not move substantially overnight.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Sitka to Sitka - June 8-13

Among the communities in SE Alaska, Sitka is one of the most popular. In population, it ranks 3rd, behind Juneau and Ketchikan, so most services are available. Its harbor only has one dock capable of a cruise ship and that is a couple of miles north of town so even when a cruise ship is in, it doesn't feel overwhelmed. Tourism other than cruise ships is high as it is a sport fishing destination and a community with a rich history going back to the Russian ownership of Alaska. The commercial fishing industry is quite vibrant so it has an economic base besides tourism.

We know of several pleasure craft that spend 3 to 4 weeks in the Sitka area using it as a base from which to go fishing for a few days then to return for reprovisioning. We thought we'd try a reduced version of that concept this year.

We headed out on Wednesday, June 8, towards the popular fishing area on the north side of Biorka Island, about 15 miles SW of Sitka. As we approached, the wind and seas picked up and we couldn't see anybody fishing We decided to fish a more protected nearby area but no bites and no evidence of fish on the fish finder. We spent the night in Herring Bay, an anchorage on an island about 8 miles away.

2016-06-010xThe next day, we reached the fishing area earlier and there were other boats present. The conditions were better than the day before but still "lumpy" with a 15 knot southerly wind coming over the island and a westerly swell coming in from the ocean. Despite the conditions, Marcia was able to hook and land a nice king salmon.

2016-06-047xThat evening we gave Annie-cat a subcutaneous infusion of lactated Ringer's solution using the new setup Marcia obtained from a Sitka veterinary office. Rather than needing to restrain Annie while we gave her injections, the solution is infused through a smaller gauge needle attached to a drip bag as she naps on the helm chair.

We hoped to repeat the fishing performance on Friday, June 10, as we went out to Biorka again. Unfortunately, despite excellent sea conditions, the fish were absent. We anchored for the night in deGroff Bay on Krestof Island, an anchorage new to us.

For Saturday, we traveled to the fishing area near Kalinin Bay on the north side of Kruzof Island. We were too late for the morning bite so we anchored for a few hours waiting for the afternoon bite. Marcia took the opportunity to make cinnamon rolls while we waited. Once again, no salmon were hooked.

On Sunday morning we were out bright and early. As we were finishing up the final pass before leaving, Marcia hooked a fish which turned out to be 33" ling cod. While not the salmon was looking for, it was a nice fish with plenty of meat on it.

As we were crossing Sitka Sound intent on trying some more fishing the winds kicked up similar to the week before. Soon we were bashing through 25 knot winds and steep 3 to 4 foot seas. We altered our course and headed towards the secure anchorage of Samsing Cove.

All was calm by Monday morning as we pulled back into Eliasen Harbor in Sitka, just a few steps away from the slip we had vacated five days earlier.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Petersburg to Sitka

Our stay in Petersburg ended up being longer and more fretful than expected. Shortly before arriving, we noticed that one of our cats, Annie, was not eating and had developed a wobbly gait in the hind quarter.

Both cats, now 14 years old, in their pre-departure checkup were diagnosed via their blood tests as having kidney disease, a common condition in cats. We immediately switched them to food specifically intended for cats with kidney disease. It happened so abruptly before our departure that we weren't able to unpack the 400+ cans of Fancy Feast that had been their staple for the last several years.

Upon our arrival in Petersburg on Wednesday, May 25, Marcia contacted the office of the local veterinarian. The vet was out-of-town but the vet tech in the office offered to stop by our boat and do a quick exam of Annie. After evaluating her and consulting with the vet via phone, we had an appointment the next morning for them to do a subcutaneous infusion of fluids since Annie was clearly dehydrated.

Since we were without a car, the vet tech offered to pick us up at the dock where we moored to save us a taxi ride or trying to walk carrying Annie the half-mile to the vet's office. Within 24 hours of the subcutaneous infusion (Sub-Q for short) of Lactated Ringer's solution, Annie's condition improved dramatically.

Unfortunately, the improvement was short-lived and by Sunday afternoon (5/29) when we had an appointment with the vet (he had arrived from Seattle on the mid-day flight), we were concerned that we were going to have to euthanize Annie. After the examination, we had a consultation with the vet and decided to continue regular Sub-Q infusions and see whether we could improve and stabilize her condition. We left the office with the necessary supplies for us to perform the Sub-Q infusions ourselves.

The next day we headed out of town for a short trip south of Petersburg to Ideal Cove. Rain was forecast so we intended to be at anchor, perform an infusion and see whether this was something we could do in the long term for Annie.

On Wednesday, we returned to Petersburg for another appointment with the vet. Annie was significantly improved, so we stocked up on the necessary supplies for continuing infusions. Fortunately the destination for the next leg of our trip, Sitka, has two veterinary offices so we knew we could get more care and supplies for Annie there.

2016-06-002xThe conditions were good as we left Petersburg on Thursday, June 2, but forecast to deteriorate the next day. We decided to head for an anchorage that we know is secure in a storm, Ell Cove on Baranof Island. While winds are diminished within the cove, we've learned that their direction is often radically different from the winds outside as they are bouncing off the steep slopes that nearly ring the cove.

The front arrived late on Friday and was relatively brief but pretty strong. It was in this blow that a cruise ship in Ketchikan while docking got away from the ship's master and crunched both the dock and the cruise ship.

2016-06-059xAfter our second night in Ell Cove, conditions began to improve and we made our way to Douglass Bay in Hoonah Sound, dropping prawn traps on the way in. We retrieved them the next morning with a good haul of prawns, our best of the season.

We could have made Sitka that day but it would have been in the afternoon. We prefer coming into a town in the morning so that we have a chance to get a jump start on chores the same day. So we aimed for a cove on the SE corner of the Magoun Islands, about nine miles from Sitka. The winds were calm as we exited Sergius Narrows and transited Neva Strait but shortly after entering Krestof Sound they began to pick up. Soon it was blowing southerly 25-30 knots. Fortunately, Krestof Sound is not large and the short fetch meant only small waves. Our anchorage on the SE corner did allow considerable wind to enter but the bottom is good holding and we just hung at the end of our anchor chain once the anchor set.

We docked in Sitka about 9 AM on Monday, June 6 and Marcia immediately contacted the local veterinary offices to see about getting more Sub-Q supplies for Annie-cat. Annie was clearly better from the Sub-Q infusions but the method we were using with the supplies from the Petersburg vet required restraining Annie while two injections were made using a large gauge needle. The process was nearly as hard on us as it was on Annie. Marcia wanted to investigate using infusion bags of the Ringer's and a smaller gauge needle with only one stick.

We hope to accomplish our chores in two days and head out for some fishing near Sitka.